The city of Oakland is “reforming” its police force—by letting 200cops be fired.
How is the reform working?
“And yet after nine years, three mayors, four police chiefs, nearly $20 million in payments to independent monitoring teams hired to oversee the police department reforms, and $57 million in the past decade to settle police misconduct lawsuits — more than any city in the state — Oakland has still not complied with the settlement agreement.”
For the victims, ur citizens, of Oakland what does this mean?
“At the beginning of April, murders in Oakland were up 26 percent over a year ago, rapes were up 41 percent, and robberies were up 35 percent.
When Batts arrived as a “change agent” in 2009, the police department employed 837 officers. It now has 635. The department no longer responds to burglaries that are not still in progress, and frequently does not respond to other calls for help. “Despite fully staffed beats last evening, we were unable to meet a high demand for service,” the department wrote in an email to city residents earlier this month.”
In clear language—the cops are protecting themselves from lawsuits, not citizens from crime. If you want to watch a crime, go to Oakland. What to protect yourself from a crime in Oakland, do not look for help from criminals, look to the Constitution.
Court order makes fighting crime the second priority in California’s most violent city
By: Shoshana Walter, Bay Citizen, 4/19/12
Last month, at his first executive meeting as Oakland’s new police chief, Howard A. Jordan laid out his priorities for the police department in California’s most violent city.
No. 1: reforms. No. 2: crime.
That is the conundrum the Oakland Police Department faces, according to dozens of former and current city officials, police officers and commanders and national police reform experts interviewed by The Bay Citizen. Amid diminishing resources, the department is making a renewed push to meet the demands of a court-ordered settlement to address systemic police misconduct, raising questions about its ability both to fend off a rising crime rate and sustain the reforms.
The department has undergone significant changes since the city reached a settlement in 2003 in a civil lawsuit over police misconduct. The case stemmed from allegations that four rogue officers, nicknamed the Riders, had planted evidence and used excessive force against suspects. The officers were dismissed, the plaintiffs received nearly $11 million, and the city agreed to implement 51 major reforms, including an overhaul of use-of-force policies, new procedures for reporting and investigating arrests, and more frequent supervision of officers.
And yet after nine years, three mayors, four police chiefs, nearly $20 million in payments to independent monitoring teams hired to oversee the police department reforms, and $57 million in the past decade to settle police misconduct lawsuits — more than any city in the state — Oakland has still not complied with the settlement agreement.
Former and current city officials, police officers and commanders say the department has improved, but police reform experts question whether the changes are sustainable.
Many of the changes appear to have expanded the department’s dysfunction. In an effort to comply with the agreement, the department has begun relying on overtime pay and fill-in officers to staff the required number of sergeants. After the department spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a crucial computer program that tracks use-of-force and arrest data, the department has now concluded it needs to be replaced. More officers are assigned to investigate complaints against the department than to investigate homicides.
“Consent decrees, if they’re not properly managed, then the focus becomes on compliance with bureaucratic principles of the system, as opposed to focusing on the desired outcomes and really evaluating the results,” said Joseph Brann, the founding director of Community Oriented Policing Services, an office of the United States Department of Justice. “People can follow the letter of the law to such an extent that it becomes dysfunctional.”
The consensus among observers is that unless significant progress is made soon, the court will place the Oakland Police Department in receivership, a first for departments nationwide. In January, Judge Thelton E. Henderson of United States District Court partially stripped the Oakland agency of its independence and ordered it to consult with federal monitors on all major decisions.
“Something must change if full compliance is to be achieved,” Henderson wrote in February. “If history is any indication, the leadership’s expressed desire to achieve compliance — not only for compliance’s sake, but for the sake of improving the department so that it can more effectively service the community it exists to protect — will simply not, after nine years, be enough.”
When the agreement first went into effect in 2003, department and city officials said, the police command staff did not take the reforms seriously, and for years the department resisted change.
The agreement required Oakland to make all 51 of the reforms within five years. After a deadline extension, the agreement expired in 2010, but was extended again. The department has completed 32 reforms.
“One of the reasons Oakland is getting hammered so bad is because we goofed off for the first five years,” said a recently retired commander who asked for anonymity because he played a role in the reforms. “Now we got this new monitor and we’re desperate. We’re just trying to cram it down everybody’s throats.”
In October, Anthony W. Batts, the police chief, resigned, saying he was fed up with city bureaucracy. Jordan, a 24-year department veteran, took over.
Jordan said the department has made significant changes. In the late 1990s and early 2000s the department investigated use-of-force incidents only when medical attention was required. Now an officer must write a report every time he or she uses any kind of force, pulls someone over for a traffic stop, or pulls out a weapon, and supervisors at different levels are required to conduct a review.
The department’s makeup has also changed. Almost half of the officers were hired after the agreement took effect, and the new generation has been brought up in the department’s new ways. But Jordan said they still have a long way to go to effect cultural change.
“I think we need to do a better job of the way we interact with the community, the way we treat people,” he said. “I think we have to get beyond the us-versus-them mentality. I’m not saying that it’s true for every officer, but I’ve seen enough in my 24 years to know that it’s there.”
National experts on police reform say the big question is whether any changes that Oakland is able to make will last. Some departments that implemented earlier reform agreements appear to have lost ground after having made progress, including in Pittsburgh, where Oakland’s team served earlier as monitors. Reform experts say Oakland’s consent decree, and others from the same time period, lack any focus on a department’s crime reduction strategy, making change hard to sustain.
At the beginning of April, murders in Oakland were up 26 percent over a year ago, rapes were up 41 percent, and robberies were up 35 percent.
When Batts arrived as a “change agent” in 2009, the police department employed 837 officers. It now has 635. The department no longer responds to burglaries that are not still in progress, and frequently does not respond to other calls for help. “Despite fully staffed beats last evening, we were unable to meet a high demand for service,” the department wrote in an email to city residents earlier this month.
“You call 911, we don’t show up. You call 911 to make a complaint, we show up,” said one Oakland police sergeant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is afraid of retribution.
After more than a decade of consent decrees, experts now say effective reform agreements take into account department sizes and service demands. Officers have grown frustrated that Oakland’s monitors do not seem concerned about the decrease in police services.
“If a police department is not hurting anybody and is not exhibiting any racial bias, it may look good by some of the first generation’s standards,” said Chris Stone, a professor of criminal justice at Harvard’s Kennedy School, who conducted a study on the efficacy of reforms at the Los Angeles Police Department.
“But if crime is rising, particularly in poor communities or communities of color,” he said, “that’s not success.”